Beefsteak Begonia | Begonia erythrophylla care & info

When it comes to foliage, Begonias are hard to beat!

Most houseplant lovers are familiar with the beautiful and versatile Rex Begonia, but don’t forget that there’s more to this genus. One example of a lesser known variety that is actually surprisingly easy to grow is Begonia erythrophylla, commonly referred to as beefsteak Begonia. 

Everything you need to know about growing beefsteak Begonia in your own home can be found below.

Name(s) (common, scientific) Beefsteak Begonia, beef Begonia, Begonia erythrophylla
Difficulty level Easy
Recommended lighting Bright indirect
Water Let dry slightly
Soil type Well-draining

Beefsteak Begonia origins

This is normally where we discuss a plant’s natural habitat. However, technically speaking, Begonia erythrophylla doesn’t have one. It’s a hybrid species, one of the first hybrid Begonias to be exact! It was hybridized in 1845 in Germany by crossing two other rhizomatous Begonia species: Begonia manicata and Begonia hydrocotylifolia.

Nowadays, the beefsteak Begonia is considered an heirloom species and it isn’t always easy to encounter. Pity, because it’s the perfect combination of beautiful and sturdy.

Beefsteak Begonia (Begonia erythrophylla) leaf photographed from the back with sun shining through | Full beefsteak Begonia care guide!
Hover over image to pin to Pinterest

Beefsteak Begonia light, location & temperature

Light

One of the great characteristics of the beefsteak Begonia is that it’s not fussy at all when it comes to lighting. It can tolerate relatively low light as long as you adjust the watering schedule accordingly. Bright indirect light works best, though.

Be sure to avoid direct sun, especially during summer, as leaf scorching can happen if things get a little too intense for this plant.

Location

Due to its preferences when it comes to lighting, this plant does best in a bright (but not sunny) windowsill.

Unlike many Begonias, the beefsteak has no special needs when it comes to humidity, so you can place it in any location that has normal humidity levels.

Temperature

You’ve probably guessed it: this unfussy plant isn’t too particular about temperature either. Normal room temperature should be just fine.

Just try not to let things drop below ~60 °F/15.5 °C, which is probably unlikely to happen indoors anyway.

Beefsteak Begonia in metal bucket planter, photographed during sunset

Beefsteak Begonia soil & planting

As with most Begonias, beefsteaks don’t like to sit in water due to their succulent rhizomes being vulnerable to rot. At the same time, they don’t like to get too dry either. So to grow this plant successfully, you’ll have to keep both drainage and moisture in mind. Sounds complicated, but it’s really not.

A good soil mixture for a beefsteak Begonia can consist of basic potting soil to retain moisture, mixed with a gritty medium like perlite to improve drainage.

Most Begonia growers prefer using a relatively shallow pot for varieties like the beefsteak. After all, this is a rhizomatous plant with a horizontal creeping growth pattern, so a wide pot ensures that it has plenty of room to grow. As with all houseplants, your pot should always have a drainage hole so excess water can’t cause rot.

Watering beefsteak Begonia

As discussed above, beefsteak Begonias like their soil to be kept lightly moist but absolutely not wet. A little on the dry side is better than too soggy, so unless the plant is growing abundantly during the growing season it’s a good idea to let the top of the soil dry out a little before watering again.

During the winter months when the plant is partially or entirely dormant, lessen waterings. As long as it’s not growing, it doesn’t need as much water.

Beefsteak Begonia fertilizer

Although your beefsteak Begonia will appreciate a little fertilizer during the growing months (summertime), be careful. It’s easy to overdo it with this plant, as it only likes to be fertilized lightly.

Use a regular houseplant fertilizer, but dilute it to less than half strength. Apply every two to four weeks and stop as soon as you notice growth slowing after summer.

Beefsteak Begonia (Begonia erythrophylla) leaf photographed from the back with sun shining through | Full beefsteak Begonia care guide!

Propagating beefsteak Begonia

One fun aspect of growing beefsteak Begonias (and other rhizomatous Begonias) is how easy these plants are to propagate. In fact, most houseplant enthusiasts seem to acquire this plant through propagation of friends’ or family members’ plants.

The species is not hugely popular in plant stores and garden centers anymore, so many of the beefsteaks found in people’s homes are “heirlooms” that can be decades old! They do tend to die off eventually, but you can just take a cutting and start anew, thereby keeping your plant alive for years.

So how do you go about propagating this Begonia? You don’t need much. Even just a single leaf can be enough, and all you need to do to make it grow a new plant is lightly press the petiole into the soil. You can also cut off any portion of the stem, with or without leaves, and root this in soil or water.

Tip: Want to know all the ins and outs of the various ways to propagate Begonias? Have a look at the full Begonia propagation guide.

Cutting of beefsteak Begonia houseplant (Begonia erythrophylla).
Fresh beefsteak Begonia cutting

Buying beefsteak Begonia

If you’re looking for a beefsteak Begonia, you might not have much luck in a regular plant store. Although this Begonia went through a very popular phase, it’s now often considered a bit of a ‘grandma plant’. Well, I’ll happily be a granny then, as beefsteaks are much easier to care for than some other Begonias and their foliage looks spectacular in the sunlight.

To obtain your beefsteak Begonia you might be best off searching for an online plant store that sells it or dive into the world of Facebook houseplant groups to see if someone is willing to trade or sell you a cutting.

Are beefsteak Begonias toxic to cats and dogs?

Unfortunately, the ASPCA lists all Begonias as toxic to pets. They contain calcium oxalates, which cause a strong burning sensation. Some species also contain cucurbitacins in their roots or rhizomes, some of which are quite toxic.


If you have any more question about beefsteak Begonia care or if you want to share your own experiences with this heirloom cultivar, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

21 thoughts on “Beefsteak Begonia | Begonia erythrophylla care & info”

    • Hey! How much light is your plant getting? New propagations can put out small leaves at first, but if they get enough light, they should usually increase in size as time goes by. 🙂

      Reply
  1. This is a great website! I wasn’t sure what kind of the onion I had so looked it up and found this website. And it’s a beefsteak I moved it to an area where it gets a ton of light, not direct, and it’s going absolutely crazy. I’ve never seen flowers but now it has these long shoots that have flowers at the very end. Is it OK if I just trim those off?

    Reply
  2. I was given a 30 year old Beefsteak begonia . In effort to clean it up a bit I suddenly found that about 1/3 of the plant became bare in the process. The rhizomes for the most part look good. How much above the soil can they be to stay healthy. Will stems regrow off these bare old rhyizomes. I love this plant and hope I can get it back into shape. I’d love to repot it but to nervous to try at this point

    Reply
    • Hi! I do know that Begonias have a limited lifespan, so first of all, I recommend using some of that rhizome to propagate your beefsteak if you haven’t already (there are instructions here). That way you always have a back-up in case things go south 🙂 you can pot up the new plants separately or put them back in the same planter.

      As for the existing plant, you could push the rhizomes into the soil a bit to see if that triggers them to start rooting and regrowing. For repotting, that depends on the season – if it’s winter where you are now, I’d wait until springtime or summer, as that’s when plants tend to be most resilient. Don’t worry, your beefsteak will be fine!

      Reply
  3. My mother received a cutting from a friend named “Fannie” when I was about 8 years old. I am now 76 and my “Fannie” (we named her)is thriving in the homes of my children and grandchildren and friends.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing! This is exactly what I meant when I said it’s a common heirloom plant. That’s great, I hope she produces many more offsets for you and your family to enjoy 🙂

      Reply
  4. My friend gave me her beefsteak begonia when she moved. It’s in a huge pot..I’ve had her 7 months & water it weekly with a small amount of water but today the soil seemed Xtra dry..about 4-5″ down so I gave it a nice drink & the water immediately poured out of bottom! Not sure what to do..i am moving her outside tomorrow (I live in Pa) but should I repot it to a smaller pot..check root system etc? I have pics but not sure how to send it Thank you

    Reply
    • I can’t see the photos you shared, you can post them in the Houseplant Central FB group if you have Facebook.

      Are you worried that the water is not reaching the roots and instead just pouring out from the sides/bottom? You could try aerating the soil by gently poking holes into it with a chopstick, this is something you should do a few times a year with all of your plants. As long as it seems to be doing well otherwise you don’t have to repot it or check out the roots, but if you’re worried then it is something you could do. 🙂

      Reply
  5. I have a decades old beefsteak begonia that has been easy to care for, but now the leaves are curling in. Can you tell me what is going on with That?

    Reply
    • My mom has a decades old one as well and she says that with Begonias, sometimes they just reach their limit, which is when she propagates and moves on. However, you could check the roots, especially if it’s been a while since you repotted. They might be a bit cramped, over-/underwatered or need aeration.

      Good luck! Check out the Begonia propagation guide if you decide to go that route.

      Reply
  6. I had a beefsteak shipped Canada post from Nova Scotia to Vancouver island and it made it. Now I have two thanks to one old damaged leaf I propagated.

    Reply

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